She’s already flat on the futon of the fashion closet next to Jane, ankles crossed and staring at the ceiling when she hears the door click open. Jane leans up on her elbow, to check that it’s—
“How’d the shoot go?”
Sutton groans and drops to the floor to sit, leaning back on her hands.
“I need a real strong martini, stat.”
Kat frowns and forces herself into a semi-sitting position, question still forming.
“Adena was great as always,” Sutton answers, before she can ask. “It was the models.”
“So much drama. Two of the models were…” Sutton stops herself, sighing with exhaustion. Like the story isn’t even worth the energy it will take to tell right now. Kat’s been there. “You know what, it doesn’t matter. What matters is Oliver owes me, and I’m done for the day.”
“It’s only 2, babe.”
They all share a moment of blissful silence, and it’s the best 5 seconds she’s had since she got to work today.
“You know what we need?” Jane says, and Kat already doesn’t like the amount of newfound energy in her voice.
“If the answer isn’t a nap, count me out,” she answers, massaging the stress headache out of her temples.
“We need a vacation,” Jane continues. “We need to get out of the city and go somewhere relaxing.”
Kat lets her eyes drift shut, imagines having no work responsibilities and being on a beach somewhere, day tipsy and making out with her girlfriend.
There was a photo on Instagram earlier, still in the back of her mind.
“My heart says yes, but my bank account says no,” Sutton sighs, wistful.
Jane bumps elbows with her and Kat looks over to see her roll her eyes. “No, like a long weekend thing. Did you guys see the 4th is on a Saturday next month? We get Friday off. We should plan something.”
“For Fourth of July weekend?” She sits up, meets Sutton’s eyes. Sutton gives a shrug and tilts her head, considering it.
“Yeah, why not?” Jane says. “You could invite Adena too. I think it would be fun.”
“Have we…ever done a weekend trip somewhere?” Sutton asks, realization hitting her.
They all share a look, like they’re trying to figure out how they’ve been friends for five years and never left the five boroughs together for a weekend.
“Pennsylvania passport trip?”
“Ok, I’m down.” Kat agrees, glancing at Sutton who also nods. “I’ll ask Adena tonight.”
“Where should we go?” Sutton muses, eyes already sparkling with excitement at getting a break and getting away together.
“Hmm…upstate? The Catskills?” Jane brainstorms.
Kat turns her head, eyes narrowing. “I swear, if you so much as whisper the word ‘camping’…”
“Abolutely not,” Sutton agrees. “Airbnb a house or a cabin. Colorado can pitch a tent out back if she wants.”
Sutton winks at her and Kat waggles her eyebrows, sharing in their lighthearted mockery while Jane huffs.
“Relax, I know. I meant a cute place somewhere up in the mountains. And near town so we can go see fireworks.”
Adena answers the door in sleep shorts and a soft t-shirt, and Kat supports her weight when Adena leans into her, sighs into their kiss.
She shuts the door gently behind them and toes her shoes off. “Ghormeh sabzi?” she asks, picking up the smell from the kitchen.
“Mhm, the leftovers from Sunday.”
“Sounds great to me.”
Adena gives her a soft smile, and Kat reaches up to grab water glasses from the cabinet for them.
Adena’s Brooklyn studio is home, in its own way.
She’s not on the lease, but she knows where Adena keeps the tea that she only drinks when she’s sick and she knows how to get the shower to work at exactly the right temperature. She has her own shelf, in the bathroom, for the products she needs before bed and to get ready in the morning when she spends the night.
Which, if she’s honest, if they both are—is getting more and more frequent. She wonders if they should talk about it soon, that they only spend a couple nights a week apart anymore, that they’re basically living in each other’s apartments. But it’s only been 6 months, and she’d commute between Manhattan and Brooklyn forever if it means they do it right this time. If it means not rushing, if it means truly figuring out what a healthy balanced relationship looks like for them, where they both get the intimacy and also the space that they need.
She settles into the low sofa cushion and places the glasses and silverware on the table. Adena joins her a moment later, sets their bowls down and pecks her lips before snuggling in beside her.
“Heard you guys had a difficult shoot today.” Adena makes a noise in affirmation and takes a bite of her food. “You wanna talk about it?”
“Eh, not really. Was just stupid drama. I’d rather hear about your day.”
“Mmkay. Well, I’m sorry you had to deal with that.” Adena’s knee presses against her thigh and she instinctively rests her hand there, strokes her thumb against the curve of Adena’s leg. “My day was a lot, but it was fine. Finishing up the small business natural beauty product campaign this week. We interviewed three more women today for the website and Instagram content.”
Adena smiles. She’s heard about the project since it was just an idea of Kat’s, and she knows that Adena loves it. That Adena is proud of what she’s working on and genuinely cares about the details of how it’s unfolding. She sees Adena’s lips part, about to ask a question, but then she pauses.
“You look tired, joon.”
Adena reaches forward to stroke her cheek and Kat leans into the touch, content.
“So do you.” Adena hums, not needing to verbalize the obvious. “Hey, Jane had an idea earlier. What do you think about taking a weekend trip next month with us, since we have a three-day weekend for the 4th? We’re thinking upstate in the mountains, somewhere not too far. Just to get out of the city, get a real break.”
“You want to take a Fourth of July trip?”
“For the long weekend, yeah.” There’s an unreadable expression on Adena’s face, and a subtle shift in her energy. It’s almost imperceptible, but Kat knows her too well. “What, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Adena meets her gaze again, with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes, and anxiety creeps into Kat’s chest because she doesn’t understand.
“Nothing, sorry. Um, maybe I’ll go?” Adena considers. “Can I think about it first?”
Adena smiles and takes another bite of food, reaches for her water glass. Kat lets the quiet seep between them for several seconds, trying to figure out what’s wrong and if she should push or not. She sets her bowl down on the table.
“Adena…something’s bothering you. Talk to me?” She barely pauses half a second before anxiety pushes more words out of her mouth. “Look, if you feel weird about joining the three of us for a whole weekend and you’d rather I have my own friend time, that’s totally fine. I’m—”
“Kat, no,” Adena interrupts. “Is not that at all. It’s not the trip.” She sighs, long and heavy. “It’s the holiday.”
“Being around American patriotism…” she explains. “I feel unsafe and I usually stay home. On July 4th, on the anniversary of 9/11…”
The fluttering anxiety in her chest settles into an aching pressure, and Kat wraps her arm around Adena’s shoulders, pulling her close. “C’mere.” Adena settles into her side, tension releasing.
She remembers their first not-quite date with far more clarity than she’d like, the way the butterflies in her stomach had been stamped out and replaced by fear and anger. The way he’d seen Adena’s hijab, heard her speaking another language, and hated her just for existing. She knows that there’s an ever-present risk to Adena’s safety each day that she steps out into the city, that at any time some Islamophobic person could… She doesn’t dwell on it too much, because it would suffocate her. The worrying. But now, just the thought of Adena becoming the target of some xenophobic patriotic display is—
“Thank you, for telling me…” She doesn’t even realize the protective way her arm pulls closer, the way her muscles tense, until Adena presses a kiss to her jaw and snuggles closer. “Look, we’re not doing the trip for the holiday. It’s just because of the day off. The only thing we really talked about doing was watching fireworks somewhere. But I understand, if you wanna stay here.” She pauses, breathes in the scent of Adena’s shampoo and kisses her head. “I want you to feel safe.”
Adena noses at her neck for a moment, presses another kiss to her skin, before she pulls back to meet Kat’s eyes.
“A weekend trip sounds nice,” she says, and Kat can’t help but smile.
“Uh-huh,” Adena nods, lips quirking in a smile as she leans in to kiss her.
It’s gentle, brief, and Adena reaches for her food again after.
“I’ll get more deets from Jane and Sutton, about the plan, and then you can decide for sure?”
Kat reaches for her bowl too and takes another bite of food. She knows that she wants to talk to Adena more about what she brought up, to understand more of her experience and her feelings, but she also knows that they’re both exhausted and this isn’t the time. It can wait.
“Jane says she wants to stay somewhere with a fire pit outside. Hey, you ever had a s’more?”
Adena’s nose scrunches in confusion, eyes crinkling.
“Oh, thank God. We made it,” Jane says, relaxing into the driver’s seat of their rental car and settling into a more even speed now that they’ve survived driving out of the city.
“The countryside,” Kat sighs, peering out the window and holding Adena’s hand on the middle seat between them.
“It’s just the outskirts of Yonkers,” Jane laughs.
“Well, now that we’re in the countryside—” Sutton starts.
“It’s not the countrys—”
“—it’s time for the right music,” she continues, connecting the cord to her phone. She reaches toward the radio, adjusting the volume higher and—
“No, no, absolutely not,” Kat surges forward in her seatbelt as the twanging chords of a country song blast through the speakers. “Your AUX privileges are cancelled.” She drops Adena’s hand, tries to wrestle the cord away from Sutton. But the angle is awkward and Sutton leans forward, pivots in her seat and holds her phone up and away from Kat like a microphone.
“…girl, I got that ’87 gassed up, 30 early out there in your drive…” Sutton lip-synchs, and she can hear Adena laughing behind her.
Jane joins in on the chorus, clearly recognizing whatever the fuck is playing, and she knows it’s a lost cause.
“We’re listening to Lil Nas after this.”
She collapses back into her seat and Adena links their fingers again. Adena’s eyes are full of laughter and she quirks her eyebrow in silent question, entertained by the banter.
“Interesting American accent,” Adena comments, neutral and hiding her smile, and Sutton turns around the other direction, sings at Adena through the space between the seat and the window.
She wants to be annoyed. She is annoyed. But she’s also in a car with her three favorite people, all looking more relaxed than they have in weeks, and she kind of loves it.
She has to admit, Jane did a great job on finding a spot to stay. It’s a “cabin” that’s more like a house, complete with two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a cozy little kitchen and dining area. There’s privacy, and there’s a cute backyard space up against the woods.
She enjoys their afternoon hike a lot, if she’s honest. She’s not a nature person, or an exercise person, but maybe she didn’t realize how much she was craving green space until she’s surrounded by trees and the echoes of singing birds.
She catches Adena taking her picture, as she’s staring up at the blue sky through a canopy of leaves, and Kat smiles at her after.
Adena is several feet away when she mouths, “you’re beautiful”, camera still in hand, and Kat rolls her eyes to hide her blush.
Sutton says, “Ladies, the walls between the bedrooms are thin,” instead of good night. It’s code for ‘please don’t have sex’ and they all know it, but she thinks Adena took it as a dare instead.
Because now there’s two fingers curved inside of her, against her g-spot, and another two pressed to her lips while she whines.
“Careful, be quiet,” Adena goads, eyes dark, and she knows Adena is absolutely getting off on this. A whimper dies in her throat as she presses her lips shut. “Mm, good, just like that.” She clenches around Adena’s fingers. Fuck, maybe she’s getting off on this too.
She stumbles into the sunny kitchen, still groggy, and rubs the sleep from her eyes, stretching her arms above her head. Sutton looks her up and down from her spot at the kitchen table, eyes narrowed.
“Impressive. I didn’t hear anything.”
Adena walks past her, winking at Sutton, and reaches for the full French press on the counter.
She feels her face heat, cheeks blushing pink.
“I hate you and your weird sixth sense.”
“No you don’t, I made you coffee.”
Adena makes a noise of agreement, smiling, and pours a mug for her.
“Where’s Tiny Jane at?” she asks, changing the subject.
Adena hands the coffee to her, kisses her cheek.
So maybe she still owns her old American flag bikini top, and maybe she packed it, just in case. She pulls on some jean shorts to go with it and wanders to the backyard to see how Jane is doing getting the charcoal grill going.
“I’m here for moral support and to look cute, I know nothing,” she warns, while Jane messes with the lighter.
Jane glances up, takes in her outfit. “You do look cute.”
“Thanks,” she poses, hand tucked under her chin.
“But can you hand me that bottle there?” she asks, pointing at what Kat thinks is lighter fluid.
She hands it over, and Jane does her thing, flames roaring up from the grill before they dim and settle.
“Ayyy,” she cheers, and Jane dusts her hands off.
“Kay, now we just have to wait until the coals are ready. Like 20 minutes?”
“I love that you know all this. Who even are you?”
“You underestimate me.”
Kat reaches for a beach towel folded up on the lawn chair and spreads it out on the grass. The temperature and the sun are perfect right now, and she is going to bask.
She’s laying on her back, skin glowing and warm, when she hears the back door open.
“We come bearing drinks and fruit,” Sutton chimes, carrying stuff from the kitchen with Adena.
It sounds great, but also, she has no will to move right now.
She hears the clanging of dishware and bottles, and then there’s a dripping cold pressure on her stomach.
“Shit,” she fumbles, eyes flying open, and Sutton’s smile that greets her is all teeth. There’s an ice-cold beer and she grasps the bottle, lifting it away from her body.
“Cheers, bitch,” Sutton sings, clinking the bottles together.
“Wine, vodka, tequila, whiskey,” she lists. “You know those are my only four alcohol categories.”
“Well today you’re doing beer. Fourth tradition. Sorry, no exceptions,” Sutton says. “Except Adena, she gets lemonade.”
Kat grimaces, takes a sip of the cheap beer that Sutton brought.
“Speaking of…” Sutton looks over at Adena, who’s clearly watching them and just noticed what Kat is wearing. Sutton glances at Kat’s bikini top and exposed stomach, follows Adena’s line of sight. “I think Adena’s feeling pretty patriotic right now.”
Adena laughs and glances down at her drink, and she knows her girlfriend heard Sutton.
“Am I wrong?” Sutton yells across the yard, and Jane looks up too.
Adena gives them a look, and Kat hasn’t felt this carefree and in love in forever. Shitty beer included.
The fireworks are scheduled to start at 9:30, and she wants to make sure they get a good spot. She loves fireworks, has loved them ever since she was little. It was one of the few things she enjoyed about Fourth of July in New Canaan. And it’s just not the same in New York. It’s not the same watching in the city, surrounded by crowds.
Jane has the two blankets and they walk together from the dirt lot, out to the field where the show is happening.
“Here,” Jane says, when they reach their destination. She hands Kat a blanket and then takes several steps away before spreading the other blanket out on the grass. Jane smiles at her and Adena before helping Sutton with the cooler, and she gets it now. They’re giving her and Adena space, even though she didn’t ask.
“Are they leaving us?” Adena glances over, inclining her head at them.
“I think so. For now,” Kat smiles.
They take their shoes off together, and then they’re side by side on their backs, staring up at the night sky. Kat reaches for Adena’s hand, and Kat feels her cheek press against her shoulder, leaning closer.
They enjoy the quiet together for a moment, and memories surface in her mind.
“The first time I remember seeing fireworks, I was six,” she murmurs, feeling nostalgic. “My mom took me to the park, the same one with the playground we always used to go to. The noise scared me at first, but then I saw all the colors exploding in the sky, and I loved it. It was like magic.”
Adena’s thumb strokes across the back of her hand, and there’s a kiss pressed to her shoulder. She can tell that Adena is watching her now, turned to take in her profile.
“Did you have a favorite color?”
Kat glances over, meeting her eyes, and smiles. Adena is so close, eyes shining, and this feels like magic too.
“The gold ones that glitter.”
“Of course,” Adena murmurs. “An obvious choice for young you.”
“How ‘bout you?” she asks, nudging Adena’s ankle with her toes. “D’you ever have fireworks growing up?”
“Oh yes, lots. During Nowruz.”
“Mhm,” Adena nods. “Not just a show, though. We’d light them ourselves, and our neighbors too. Right out in the street sometimes. I’m sure it was a fire hazard, but we didn’t care.”
There’s a faraway longing in Adena’s eyes, and Kat has never heard her talk about her childhood, about home like this. With this sort of fond nostalgia for happy memories.
“Once, when I was eight…my mom got so mad because I jumped across the large bonfire that the teenage boys had made for Chaharshanbe Suri. She worried I’d burned myself.”
“Rebel girl even then, huh?” Kat smiles, and Adena bites her lip, eyes bright.
Adena looks like she’s about to say more, but then there’s a distant pop sound, fizzing through the air, and a moment later a red firework explodes above them.
“Always,” she answers, keeping it short before turning her attention back to the sky.
The show starts gradually, a simple firework here and there, then two at a time. But it’s not long before it quickly builds, and then a massive gold firework explodes in the sky, raining glitter. Adena laughs, squeezing her hand, and they share a glance.
“Still magic?” Adena whispers.
Kat takes in every feature of Adena’s face in the semi-darkness, the way the next round of fireworks shines a faint burst of light across her cheek and catches her eyes.
“I love you,” she divulges, because it’s the best answer she has.
Adena leans in close, brushes their noses together before pulling her in for a kiss. It’s slow, gentle in the waves of desire it sparks inside of her, and there are bursts of light behind her eyelids. The fireworks light up the sky and Adena smiles into her mouth, rolls them until Kat is on her back again.
Adena’s weight is solid and warm on top of her when she tips out of the kiss, looking down. Her hair is falling around her face and Kat reaches up, tucks some of it behind her ear.
“I love you too,” Adena whispers. No matter how many times she’s heard Adena say it, it always gets to her. She feels warm, and a content sort of happy that’s intoxicating. “And thank you.”
She scrunches her eyebrows in confusion. “For what?”
Adena shifts her weight off of her, turns to cuddle into her side instead.
“For this weekend. For making happy memories on this day with me,” Adena says.
Adena’s arm is wrapped across her stomach in a hug and Kat turns, kisses her forehead right as several fireworks go off in tandem.
“Happy Fourth of July, babe.”